1988: Phaze

Phaze (1988) #1-2 by Fred Burke, Rafael Kayanan et al.

Eclipse must have had high hopes for this series. There were in-house ads for it for seemingly years before it debuted, and Eclipse got two very high-profile artists to do the covers: Bill Sienkiewicz for the first issue, and Paul Gulacy for the second.

But perhaps that has something to do with the writer, Fred Burke, being an editor at Eclipse.

The interior artwork is by Rafael Kayanan, and it’s downright bizarre. Basically no faces look the same twice, and people transmogrify into monsters at the drop of a hat.

The layouts of the first issue are wild a wacky, without any rhyme or reason. I mean, if that’s as dramatic you’re going to get while entering a room and sitting down, where do you take it from here?

(Cool glasses, dude.)

Oh, right, you take it here.

This is a time travel story, and Burke gets the time-travel storytelling bits just right, I think: He uses all the modern oblique strategies for letting us know all that he wants us to know, and making us participate in the story by not spelling everything out. A little effort makes the reader involved. The danger is that if you don’t convince the reader that the effort is worth it (i.e., that this is going somewhere interesting), it’s a total failure.

This isn’t. I really wanted to know how this all would resolve, wonky panels and all.

Wow! So, this is “illustrated” by Rafael Kayanan, but there are four colourists listed as “painters”. With an art style like this, I just assumed that Kayanan had done it as mixed media, because on some pages there’s very little that looks like a pencil line; it’s all colours. But perhaps that explains all the faces that change shape: Kayanan put in some vague pencil lines (uninked), and the colourists just did whatever they wanted.

Heh heh. The Doxie-Glitches are from Doug Moench’s Aztec Ace.

I’m wondering how much of the first issue is supposed to look like this, and how much is because the printer fucked up. It doesn’t look out of register, exactly, but that’s… not… right…

Heh heh. Best evil plan ever!

The second issue looks much, much, much better, so perhaps many of the problems with the artwork were printer’s faults. Faces are still very wonky, though.

The pencil work is sketchier in this issue, but the figures are stronger, and the layouts make more sense. And that’s not a gratuitous pose at all.

That’s not a printing glitch, I think? The doctor takes his time-travel drug, and then you see a very faint blue version of him descending into the panel below (where he’s young and red-headed). It’s nice.

Of course, it might still be a printing error.

And so it ends with the traditional “to be continued”.

I’m not the only one who found the mutating faces slightly confusing.

Burke explains that, indeed, Eclipse promoted the hell out of this book, but it still had shitty sales, and he didn’t know whether it would continue.

Rafael Kayanan is now a superstar illustrator who draws in a completely different, super-detailed style.

Phaze has never been finished or reprinted.

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